Navan O'Mahonys are reaping rewards of mobile phone ban
By John Harrington
Navan O’Mahonys' decision last year to ban parents from using their mobile phones on the sidelines while their children play has already had a hugely positive impact on the club.
So much so, that the rule which was initially just brought in for their nursery coaching sessions now applies for all teams up to U-10 level and includes matches as well as coaching sessions where possible.
“It all came about last year from parents who had kids in the nursery and were helping out with the training," Navan O'Mahonys' PRO, Jackie Murray, told GAA.ie
"They just happened to look up one morning when kids were kicking the ball for the first time.
“One child in particular looked up to see if mammy was watching but mammy had her head stuck in her phone.
“The parents brought the idea to the executive with the suggestion that we put up a sign asking people to not look at their phone for the hour that they're there with their child.
“We put it up the following week and it took off unbelievably well.
“It's had a hugely positive impact. Since we started it, the number of mentors involved in the nursery has nearly doubled because now parents are getting involved and taking part rather than just standing on the sideline and looking at it.
“We've had no issue with it. We've never had to ask anyone to put away the phone because the phones just don't come out with them anymore.
“The whole thing has really blossomed. On Saturday morning from nursery up to U-10 level we had 350 kids on the playing pitches in Navan O'Mahonys.”
Quite often many parents are reluctant to help out with coaching at underage level because of a fear factor.
They might not have played the games themselves to a high level or even at all, so they therefore think they couldn’t possibly be able to coach them.
Nothing, of course, could be further form the truth, which anyone who has taken the leap has quickly discovered after even one session coaching children.
Navan O’Mahonys' decision to ban phones has persuaded many parents to try their hand at coaching, to the mutual benefit of both them and their children.
“Our nursery is mostly fun games but for someone who has never done it and probably never played Gaelic it's a bit daunting because they don't know what's expected of them or what they have to do," says Murray.
“But now when they look up and see what the kids are doing and realise they only have to run alongside the kids and give encouragement, you're not expected to show them how to score the winning goal in an All-Ireland, you're just showing them how to get into it at the beginning and enjoy themselves with the kids and have fun.
“That's why so many more parents then got involved, when they saw that.
“It has had a hugely positive impact on the kids. The confidence in the kids of that age has come up immensely. They're not hanging on to mammy's or daddy's legs.
“They're running out onto the middle of the pitch because they know mammy and daddy are coming out with them.
“It augurs well for the rest of their life in football, camogie or hurling or whatever it is, that they have parents who support them and are there to watch them and not look at their phone.”
Navan O’Mahonys have found that getting more parents involved coaching underage teams has had a hugely positive ripple effect throughout the club.
“Parents are now even getting more involved in other areas of the club,” says Murray. “They’re now coming up and helping out with fund-raising and other things.
“One of the underage groups are trying to fundraise for Féile and on Sunday morning we had Meath and Donegal here in Pairc Tailteann so they opened up a tuck-shop at the side of the club-house and were selling teas and coffees and a few buns and sweets.
“It was the underage team who were doing it, but nearly all of the parents were in with them helping.
“All along we’ve been trying to launch the One Club initiative in the club, to bring the ladies football, camogie, and underage all in under the one group.
“It has actually helped with that because it has brought that family feeling back to the club. That's what we're really trying to continue pushing this year.
“We're doing an Oscars night in the club in March to help fundraise for our Games Promotion Officer and games development for underage in the club.
“The people who have come forward to take part in it are parents who have never done anything in the club before. I've just been bowled over by the amount of initiatives for fund-raising they have brought forward for this. I just can't believe it, it's fantastic to see.”
Having witnessed first-hand the positive impact that banning phones from sidelines has had in her own club, Murray is strongly advocating other clubs bring in the same policy.
“At the times when news of this broke first last year I got phone-calls from club from Donegal, Kerry, Offaly, all over really, asking could they copy the sign and could they use it,” she says.
“As I said to them, we haven't trademarked it, it's just something we came up with, if you want to use it go ahead and use it if you think it could be anyway helpful to your club.
“We would say that to anyone. I personally would recommend and so would our club executive recommend that every club should do it.
“We've also been doing the ‘silent sidelines’ for a long time which is something I’d also recommend strongly to other clubs.
“Since we brought in the ‘silent sidelines’ initiative, it has had an amazing impact.
“It gives the kids more confidence because there's nobody shouting at them. The only voice they have to listen to is when their manager speaks to them.”